Feature photo: Eilean Donan Castle
After the regional elections on May 6, 2021, new steps by the Scots to break away from the United Kingdom are to be expected in the foreseeable future, with the aim of bringing Scotland into the EU as an independent country. I have put a few thoughts on paper about this, and above all about the question of how the EU should react to the expected clashes between Edinburgh and London.
I've been to Scotland twice and was amazed by the landscapes and the capital, Edinburgh. I am attaching a few photos.
The Scottish situation – future as an independent nation in the EU?
Two completely different associations come to mind when I think of Scotland. On the one hand, there are the great memories of two round trips with American friends on the British Isles, which also took me to Scotland in 2011 and 2018. Memories of mysterious landscapes under strange lights and biting winds that made us button our jackets as we stopped briefly at the roadside to take photos. Memories of a cloudy morning at Loch Ness, when we involuntarily searched the crests of the waves for traces of the monster that is said to live there. And finally to the cosmopolitan capital of Edinburgh, which presents itself to tourists from all over the world from many sides: rainy weather drove me to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland, and our group sat high in the grandstands among the 8.600 spectators in the radiant evening light , which were erected in the forecourt of Edinburgh Castle for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We experienced Scotland with all our senses: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy captured such memories in his 3rd symphony, the "Scottish".
The second and entirely different association with Scotland is less romantic and yet emotional. I want to call it the Scottish feast, which was thoroughly mixed up by the parliamentary elections there on May 6.5.2021th, XNUMX. “The result of the Scottish regional election brings Boris Johnson in trouble," wrote Katrin Pribyl, the England correspondent of the Heilbronnerstimme in a commentary (Heilbronnerstimme, May 10.5.21th, 72: "Centrifugal forces unleashed"). The Scottish National Party (SNP) missed an absolute majority by one seat, but together with the Greens in the Edinburgh regional parliament they achieved 129 of the 66,8 seats and thus a whopping majority to start a new campaign to separate Scotland from the UK. Great Britain has 5,3 million inhabitants; it would lose 8,2 million people – 8.5 per cent of its current population – with Scotland leaving; "... and a fair amount of international prestige with it," writes the New York Times in a report on the Scottish elections (New York Times, 11.5.21/XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Of Brexit and Boris: What's Driving the Call for Scottish Independence" ). No wonder the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vehemently opposed to the Scots' aspirations for independence. He would “go down in history as the Prime Minister who – with Brexit – left the United Kingdom to decay” (SWP Comments No. 38, May 2021; Nicholas of Ondarza: "Scottish independence and the EU". SWP-Aktuell is a publication of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin).
The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England have been governed in personal union since 1603 and were united with the Act of Union in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain (see Wikipedia, keyword Scotland).
Independence – failed referendum 2014 – Brexit 2016
It is beyond the scope of this article to describe in detail the discussions and disputes surrounding Scotland's secession from the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party (SNP), founded in 1934, played and still plays an important role, but it was of no importance in Scotland compared to the traditional British parties. Wikipedia (keyword Scottish National Party) notes that the SNP does not represent ethically based nationalism but a communitarian concept of inclusive nationalism based on identification with Scotland, its culture and democratic values while at the same time being open to everyone who lives and works in Scotland want, sets. What this means and, above all, where the limits to self-referential nationalism lie, cannot be examined here. Wikipedia mentions that the SNP advocates a multilateral foreign policy. The party program contains a number of social policy goals, such as the abolition of corporate taxes for small businesses; tuition fees at Scottish universities were abolished.
When the SNP achieved an absolute majority in Parliament in Edinburgh in 2011, it became clear that the Los-of-England issue was not going to disappear from the agenda anytime soon. The British Prime Minister at the time David Cameron and the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond agreed in 2012 in the Edinburgh Agreement that “both the Scottish and the British government would recognize the result of a referendum that should be held on a solid legal basis, with neutral questions and under fair conditions” (SWP Comments No. 38 , May 2021). This agreement avoided a lengthy legal battle over who is responsible for authorizing and conducting such a referendum in the UK. Such a dispute with an uncertain outcome and up to the Supreme Court is likely to threaten before the second independence referendum now being sought by the SNP, after Boris Johnson unwilling to accommodate the Scots. David Cameron expected at the time that the Scots would reject the independence movement. "The political calculation at the time was that the supporters would miss the majority, that a quick referendum with this result would decisively weaken the striving for independence and that the question could be shelved "for at least one generation"" (SWP Comments No. 38, May 2021). A broad coalition of Tories, Labor and Liberal Democrats backed Scotland to remain in the UK in a joint Better Together campaign. In the referendum on September 18.9.2014th, 55 – narrower than expected – 45 percent of the Scottish voters were in favor of remaining in the United Kingdom; XNUMX percent voted for independence.
The mood in Scotland then swung back and forth. A decisive turn towards independence took place after the Brexit vote on June 23.6.2016, 51,89. Overall, 62 percent in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union. In Scotland, the result was radically different: XNUMX percent voted to remain in the EU. This means, as Deutsche Welle noted on its website, that Scotland could be taken out of the EU against the declared will of its residents - which has now happened. For Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister and chairman of the SNP, this could not and should not be. She called for a new independence referendum and was certain that she would still achieve her goal of Scotland becoming an independent EU member (dw.com, October 15.10.20, XNUMX: “Scotland’s future “within the EU”).
David Cameron, who had speculated in 2014 that the first referendum on Scotland's independence would "settle" this problem for at least one generation" quite a number of his party friends - some with questionable arguments - had campaigned for Brexit. One of them was Boris Johnson, the current British Prime Minister. He now has to deal with the demands from Edinburgh.
"Away with those pesky Englishmen..."
Under this headline, the correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung described the mood in Scotland in the run-up to the election of the regional parliament on May 6.5.2021th, 5.5.21. It has been described as an election of destiny, one that touches on the very big issues on the island: “This election is … about nothing less than whether the UK will survive as it is – or into the not too distant future breaks apart Will Scexit come after Brexit? And should Scotland really break away from the United Kingdom, what about Northern Ireland and Wales? Will it end up like football and rugby? Every team is already playing for itself” (sueddeutsche.de, May XNUMXth, XNUMX: “Away with the annoying Englishmen”). An SNP activist is quoted in the article as saying: “Voters must decide whether to Boris Johnson want to be represented, or not.” The conservative British prime minister is “the personification of everything we don’t want.” There is Johnson, for example, the opportunist. Johnson the liar. And of course Johnson the Brexiteer. An Englishman who tore the UK out of the European Union against the will of Scotland.” Nicola Sturgeon was similarly clear in a guest article for the daily newspaper Die Welt: "The Scottish government believes that the best future for our country as an independent nation lies within the EU." In it she described Brexit as "irresponsible", "foolish" and "harmful". for the economy” and the Government of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson she accused of "impeligibility" in her approach to secession from the European Union. With London determined to "turn its back on consensus and solidarity, Scotland needs an alternative way forward." stand with full conviction” (quoted from dw.com, 15.10.20/XNUMX/XNUMX: “Scotland’s future “within the EU”). And again Nicola Sturgeon: “We want to make sure that we rebuild the country as we envision it. With kindness, compassion and equality - and not in the image of Boris Johnson and its Brexit supporters" (quoted from tagesschau.de, 1.1.21: "Scotland's nationalists are playing for time"). In Scotland, a no-nonsense election campaign was underway, with the word 'struggle' no doubt predominating. Everyone could know what it was about...
Auch Boris Johnson fought in his own way. Two days after the election, he again rejected a second independence referendum in Scotland. He told the Daily Telegraph on May 8.5 that under the given circumstances "a referendum would be irresponsible and ruthless" (quoted in sueddeutsche.de, May 8.5.21, 30.11.20: "Narrow majority for freedom"). During the election campaign itself, Johnson did not appear personally in Scotland. "The Prime Minister is very unpopular in Scotland anyway, and with his recent statement that the transfer of political powers to the Scottish Parliament would be a disaster, he will not have gained any sympathy points" (tagesschau.de, November XNUMXth, XNUMX: "Sturgeon's vision of the of independence").
The result of the Scottish regional elections on May 6.5.2021th, 64 should be mentioned again here, in which the SNP won 129 of the 8 seats in Parliament in Edinburgh - only one seat was missing for an absolute majority. But with the 2 seats of the Greens, the two parties achieved a clear majority to further advance their most important campaign goal: the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom. Concrete steps are to be taken after the corona pandemic has abated, provided that the forecasts promise a majority for the second referendum "IndyXNUMX" Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister and leader of the SNP, does not want a “wild referendum” but a politically and legally flawless path to independence, which – provided it works – will also be recognized internationally. The confused situation surrounding Catalonia's secession from Spain should serve as a warning to supporters of Scottish independence. However, since there will be no agreement with London as of now – unlike before the first referendum in 2014 – the first step, the creation of a legally sound basis for the second referendum, will entail great difficulties and will ultimately end up with the Supreme Court. Nicholas of Ondarza expects this process alone to take at least six months. He notes that it is still unclear how the SNP will react if the Supreme Court – like the Spanish Constitutional Court in the case of Catalonia – bans the planned referendum (see SWP Comments No. 38, May 2021; Nicholas of Ondarza: "Scottish independence and the EU").
In the second step, a majority for independence must be achieved in the referendum; In other words, unlike in the first referendum in 2014, the majority of Scots must vote for the country's detachment from the United Kingdom. One may base this on the 62 percent of voters who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit vote. But the termination of the 314-year-old union with England appears to have other implications and is even felt by the Scots Boris Johnson deeply despise, demand a more serious decision. Stern magazine sees a clear majority for independence among Scots under the age of 50. Only in the age group over 45 there is no majority for the detachment (stern.de, 15.4.21: "Why young Scots want to get out of the kingdom - and this time they have good chances").
Christos Katsioulis, the head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation's office in London, however, writes that the referendum is not a sure-fire success. He points out that there is currently no clear majority for independence in the polls and writes with regard to the election of May 6.5.2021th, 50: "Just over 10.5.21 percent of Scots voted with the first vote for parties that are for independence. Paradoxically, however, with the second vote they voted with an equally narrow majority for parties who are against it" (IPG, 2014: "Two are unstoppable"). A second referendum is unlikely to see a joint Tory-Labour-Liberal Democrat campaign like XNUMX, but the three parties remain opposed to Scottish independence.
In “Indy2”, a second independence referendum – if it happens – economic issues will play a role; also foreign, security and defense policy issues. Should Scotland break away from the UK, it would no longer be a member of NATO. As in England, there is also fishing in Scotland, which is of no importance to the economy as a whole, but can be emotionally charged. Emotions will also run high when the question of a border between England and Scotland is discussed. “If you have family in England, you don't want a national border between them. Anyone who wants to live and work in another EU country does not want to apply for a visa. But what everyone agrees on, nobody wants to be told anything" (Dorothee Falkenberg: “UK or EU? Scotland stands between the chairs”; published in Meeting point Europe – web magazine of the JEF; taurillon.org, 20.5.21/2/XNUMX). Even before there are concrete steps towards "IndyXNUMX", the European Union is faced with the question of how it can and should deal with this Scottish situation. This will be discussed in the next section.
The EU must remain patient and composed
In the 2016 Brexit referendum in Scotland, unlike in England, 62 percent of voters voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. At first glance, this sounds like evidence of great enthusiasm for Europe. In reality, however, it is unclear whether the Scots who are enthusiastic about Europe would actually be willing to advance the European project with energy and enthusiasm, or whether they are only interested in the advantages of the common internal market and possible funds from Brussels. The European project urgently needs to be reformed and further developed. "Europe is not progressing strongly enough," said Emmanuel Macron on May 9.5.2021th, XNUMX at the kick-off event of the "Conference on the Future of Europe" in Strasbourg. What can we expect from the Scots? For reforms, the EU needs forward-looking and courageous politicians and the citizens who support them. Will the Scots still be convinced Europeans if decisions are made in Brussels that do not correspond to their political ideas?
In a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung in the run-up to the Scottish regional elections there was a sentence that made me ask such questions: "Many Scots want to be able to determine their own lives, and that's here in Edinburgh and not in London." This sentence was quoted as an answer to the question of why the Scots want to become independent (sueddeutsche.de, 5.5.21/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Away with the annoying Englishmen"). The decision should be made “here in Edinburgh and not in London.” If you change just one word in this sentence, it sounds like a warning sign on the wall: The Scots want to determine their own lives “and they want to do it here in Edinburgh and not in Brussels !' A well-known attitude in some EU Member States is reflected here. In principle, the European and the European Union are welcomed, but the root of all evil lies in Brussels. In other words: enthusiasm for Europe is changeable; Forecasts are difficult to make.
How should the European Union behave in the looming 'battle' between Edinburgh and London? ME should not succumb to the temptation of Brussels Boris Johnson Wanting to retaliate against all the cabals and quibbles during the Brexit negotiations. This would be short-sighted and lack sovereignty. Above all, the EU should not allow itself to be drawn into the forthcoming clashes between Edinburgh and London. The Scots must go down the path to independence themselves. Generally speaking, the EU should take on the role of an interested observer who remains at a distance. Nicholas of Ondarza argues similarly in his article in SWP-Aktuell. The EU would be well advised to continue to treat Scottish independence as an internal UK matter.
The expected disputes over Scottish independence are likely to last for several years. Von Ondarza does not expect a second referendum in Scotland until 2022 at the earliest, if at all. Angus Robertson, the former press spokesman for the SNP, gave a time horizon for independence "within the next ten years" (deutschlandfunk.de, 21.5.21: "Is Scotland facing divorce twice?") not just focus on developments in Scotland. It would make sense to keep an eye on all the developments on the British Isles. Over the next few years, I expect that younger voters in England in particular – if not in the UK as a whole – will recognize the problems and disadvantages of Brexit and will weigh them in future voting decisions. I base these expectations, among other things, on the breakdown of turnout by different age groups in the Brexit vote on 23.6.2016. In general, it was noted that while young people voted against Brexit, they rarely went to the polls at the time; afterwards they complained that they left the decision about their future to the older ones. The numbers back it up: across the UK, 51,89 percent voted to leave the EU; 48,11 percent were in favor of staying. All in all a pretty tight decision; the majority for Brexit was almost 127.000 votes. The differences in voter turnout were significant. In the 18-34 age group, 64 percent took part in the vote. In the age group 36-64 it was 80 per cent and in the over 65 year olds it was 89 per cent (figures from wikipedia.org: election results of the referendum on the UK remaining in the European Union). The participation of boys was 16 percent lower than that of the next higher age group and 25 percent lower than that of the oldest group of voters. Given the slim majority for Brexit, the young could have avoided the mishap if they had taken the trouble to vote! For the younger generation of the UK, traveling across Europe had become second nature; with Erasmus they had the great opportunity to study at many colleges and universities on the continent. But Brexit ended Erasmus for the United Kingdom. Those affected should be "not amused", although Johnson wants to launch his own exchange program.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister and Chair of the SNP called on the EU to reserve a spot for Scotland (quoted in SWP Comments No. 38, May 2021). Any EU reaction to this wish – positive or negative – would be short-sighted and undiplomatic. Rather, the place in the European Union should not only be reserved for Scotland, but for the young generation of the whole United Kingdom. It's up to the youngsters to initiate and enforce re-entry into the EU sooner or later. Scotland would then automatically be included and back in the EU even without the wounds of a “fight” for independence. It is clear to me that this cannot be achieved with the Brexit generation.
And with that I have come full circle from the reflections I started with describing the wonderful landscapes of Scotland and its capital, Edinburgh. I still hope that not only Scotland but the whole United Kingdom - with the equally fascinating landscapes in Wales, such as the Snowdonia National Park, and all the historic cities such as Durham, Chester, York, the metropolis of London and many more - one day will be part of the European Union again.
As discussed in the post, detaching Scotland from the rest of the UK will not be easy and, if successful, will bring further problems and challenges. However, these are negligible when it comes later to reintegrating Scotland into the EU. Just two examples:
1. EU external border
Nobody wants to reactivate Hadrian's Wall or even build a fence through the island. Therefore, a new type of border control would have to take place, which would, one would fear, ensure that England and Wales would be part of the EU economic area through the back door. As is already the case with Northern Ireland. With that, London would have achieved what the English demanded from the start: to participate in the economic success of the EU without making any contributions of its own. The effects on the other member states of the EU would therefore not be foreseeable.
2. Nuclear Forces and Research
Much of Britain's nuclear capability is located in Scotland. Since a relocation of people and above all the infrastructure will hardly be affordable and will also take decades, Scotland's detachment from the United Kingdom could lead to very practicable — above all affordable — solutions.
However, these solutions would no longer be tenable if Scotland joined the EU, or would bind England and Wales to the EU in such a way that neither side would benefit from it!